Armenian Stuffed Grapeleaves - A Vegan Appetizer

Yalanchi Sarma is an appetizer served on any special occasion.  If you're following Weight Watchers points plus, I've calculated these at 1 point a piece!
Yalanchi Sarma is an appetizer served on any special occasion. If you're following Weight Watchers points plus, I've calculated these at 1 point a piece!

A Little Bit About this Recipe

My grandmother was from the village of Sivrihisar, which was part of Armenia back at the turn of the century and is now part of Turkey. Because of the Armenian Genocide, the Turks forced her from her homeland with nothing but her faith, clothes on her back, and a few family recipes that she had memorized.

This is my grandmother's recipe. I have taken on the tradition of making this dish for family gatherings now that my grandmother has passed away. The combination of sweet and savory, and the creamy texture of the rice and tang of the lemon make it a sensory delight.

This recipe is enough for a large party. As yalanchi sarma is a lot of work, you will want to make a large batch. Since there is no meat in the recipe, they save well in a tupperware.

I have also calculated the PointsPlus value on this recipe to 1 point per sarma. So if you're watching your weight, they're not as sinful as they seem. Enjoy!

Here's the list of ingredients

You'll need:

  • 2 jars of grape leaves (or one large jar of about 100 or so grape leaves)
  • 1/2 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 5 medium onions
  • 3-4 lemons
  • Calrose (short grain) rice
  • 1 bunch parsley
  • 1 8oz can tomato sauce
  • dill
  • cinnamon
  • allspice
  • 1 cup black currants (if not available you can use chopped raisins)
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 3 oz pine nuts


Preparing the leaves

Step one: Carefully open the jars and remove grape leaves being careful not to tear the leaves. Unfurl them (they'll be bundled), and place them in a large bowl and rinse with cold water to loosen. Keep the leaves soaking the in water while you prepare the filling. This will help loosen any sediment, and remove the brine.


Making the filling

In your food processor, or by hand, finely chop 5 medium yellow onions. In a large soup pan, heat 1/2 cup of olive oil and add the onions, sauteing them for about 10 minutes until the onions are somewhat transparent.

Add 2 cups of Calrose rice to the onion mixture and 2 1/2 cups of water (for the time being), and stir. Lower the flame and let it cook a bit, stirring often adding up to another 1/2 cup of water to keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. The rice should swell and be tender, but not completely soft.

Add tomato sauce to the cooked onion/rice mixture and stir.
Add tomato sauce to the cooked onion/rice mixture and stir.
With the flame turned off, add pine nuts, currants and chopped parsley to the filling
With the flame turned off, add pine nuts, currants and chopped parsley to the filling

Carefully wash parsley and trim, getting rid of the stems. Dry with paper towels. Finely chop. You should have about 1 1/2 cups of chopped parsley. A little more or a little less will not matter. Add the parsley, 3 oz of pine nuts (you can purchase cheaper at a middle eastern market - but Costco has them too), and 1 cup of black currants (also at the middle eastern market). Stir until mixed. Note, you don't want to go crazy stirring because the rice is very sticky and breaks down easily. But don't be afraid of it either.

Next add your spices:

  • 3 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 2 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 2 Tbsp dill weed (loosely measured not packed)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • Juice of one lemon




While the filling is cooling....

Revisit your grape leaves. Rinse them, and one by one, use a paring knife to cut the stems close to the leaf. As you trim the stems, stack them, veiny side up (shiny side down) on your work surface. While you're working, you'll notice there are leaves that are very course and tough in texture....set those aside. Also, remove any damaged/torn leaves as well. Keep those aside because you're going to line the bottom of your pan with them later.


Getting Ready to Roll!

Get your work area ready so that everything is at hand.  Have a plate for finished sarma, you're leaves handy and the filling close by.
Get your work area ready so that everything is at hand. Have a plate for finished sarma, you're leaves handy and the filling close by.
Start with one leaf, shiny side down.  Add a finger-width of filling on the lower third of the leaf. You kind of want to keep the filling  about 1/2 the width of the leaf, but centered.
Start with one leaf, shiny side down. Add a finger-width of filling on the lower third of the leaf. You kind of want to keep the filling about 1/2 the width of the leaf, but centered.
Cover the filling with the bottom of the leaf, working away from you. NOTE:  Make sure that none of the filling is showing as you roll.  If the filling is exposed in your finished sarma, it will fall apart during the cooking process.
Cover the filling with the bottom of the leaf, working away from you. NOTE: Make sure that none of the filling is showing as you roll. If the filling is exposed in your finished sarma, it will fall apart during the cooking process.
fold the sides in, making sure that you have enclosed all the filling.  You're creating a little package (like a burrito).  Continue rolling, somewhat tightly, up toward the point of the leaf.  That's it!  You've rolled your first sarma.
fold the sides in, making sure that you have enclosed all the filling. You're creating a little package (like a burrito). Continue rolling, somewhat tightly, up toward the point of the leaf. That's it! You've rolled your first sarma.
Stack your finished grape leaves and continue working until you've used up all your filling
Stack your finished grape leaves and continue working until you've used up all your filling

Stacking Your Sarma - Getting It Ready to Cook

Once you've rolled all your sarma, then you have to cook them on your stove top. But first you have to arrange them carefully in the pan. Use a 5 qt large pan or soup pot. Divide your "reject" grapeleaves in half and line the bottom of the pan with them. If you don't have too many, you can slice a washed potato evenly (1/4" slices") and line the pan with the potato slices first. This will keep your sarma off bottom of the pan. But if you do have enough grape leaves, then line the bottom going slighly up the sides of the pan as well.

Start by arranging the sarma side by side, closely, across the bottom of the pan and the side areas. Then turn your pan slightly and do the same on top of the first layer, stacking close as you go. Continue stacking until you've arranged all the yalanchi sarma. When you've finished, then cover the top with more of your leftover leaves

This photo shows the stacked yalanchi sarma ready to be covered with the extra grape leaves and cooked.
This photo shows the stacked yalanchi sarma ready to be covered with the extra grape leaves and cooked.
In this final photo, I show the sarma ready to cook on the stove top.  Covered first with a couple layers of leaves and then with an inverted plate (to keep the leaves from floating), you add water (just one layer less than the top layer of sarma).
In this final photo, I show the sarma ready to cook on the stove top. Covered first with a couple layers of leaves and then with an inverted plate (to keep the leaves from floating), you add water (just one layer less than the top layer of sarma).

Cooking, Serving, Enjoying

Add enough water, one cup at a time, until you see the level of water at the second layer (from the top) of sarma. Invert a stoneware plate on top of your sarma to keep them from floating or moving during the cooking. Put a heavy lid on your pan and turn on your stove. With a low flame, allow the sarma to cook for an hour. Turn off the flame and let rest.

When the yalanchi has thoroughly cooled, squeeze the juice of a large lemon over the whole thing (it should soak down through the top leaves...if not, then allow the lemon juice to run down on the sarma. Do not remove sarma from the pan when warm.

Refrigerate the whole thing....pan and all. Sarma is best cooked a day or two ahead of time. this allows ample chilling and marrying of the flavors. The following day, remove the lid, the plate and the protective leaf covering and one by one, remove the sarma and stack them on a plate. Garnish with lemon. Some people like theirs more lemony. If that's the case, squeeze another lemon over your finished sarma.

Typically, yalanchi sarma is served as an appetizer along with olives, string cheese, pita bread, hummus, fresh cilantro. Enjoy!

If you have any questions at all, let me know.

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Comments 2 comments

Susan 5 years ago

Very cool koor. Must learn how to do this. What a great way to preserve family history. Great going, sweet memories. X


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rjsadowski 5 years ago

Great hub with loads of detailed pictures. I've eaten stuffed grape leaves, but I never knew how they were made. You learn something every day.

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